Bird of the Inner Eye

Presented by Arcata Playhouse

The Arcata Playhouse is in the historic Creamery District of Arcata, CA

Dell’Arte International and the Arcata Playhouse present the first workshop performances of Bird of the Inner Eye, an original chamber opera based on the letters of American painter Morris Graves (1910-2001).  This work has been in development for three years. The development of Bird of the Inner Eye received funding support from OPERA America’s Opera Grants for Female Composers program, supported by the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation.

Morris Graves was part of a group of Northwest painters in the late 1930’s who felt morally obliged to create art that spoke to the turmoil of their time. He acquired sudden fame after being ‘discovered’ by a MoMA curator about the same time he was forcibly inducted into the US Army in 1941. Some of his greatest works—many with birds as subject and symbols—were created in the period from 1939 - 1950, out of his early response to the war, his depression following his release in 1943 and the dropping of the first atomic bomb in 1945.

Bird of the Inner Eye focuses on Graves’ years as a conscientious objector and gives prominence to the women who supported him. Graves’ struggles-- against war, against the degradation of the natural world, against the corrupting influence of fame-- never caused him to lose hope or give up the work of art-making. “These struggles seem to us connected to our own and many contemporary artists’ lives,” said librettist, Joan Schirle. “If we believe art is not neutral, how and what can we artists create in this chaotic time?”

Workshop performances will be concert style,  with 5 singers, 3 musicians, 1 puppeteer, and with projections courtesy of the Morris Graves Foundation. "Bird" is scored for piano, piano harp, glass armonica, cello/bass, and accordion, with the composer herself  playing  glass and accordion

Price Range:
$20 to $50

Program Items

Gina Leishman composer
Joan Schirle Librettist


Dina Emerson soprano
Jodi Gilbert soprano
Shara Lunon mezzo soprano
David Belton Powell tenor
Garrick Woods Cello
Nancy Correll Piano
Gina Leishman Armonica, accordion and various percussion